Written and directed by Vanessa Brooks
Pros: Beautifully written and very well performed with a great design and excellent music.
Cons: I can’t think of any real drawbacks. There is a very clichéd plot twist at one point but it doesn’t spoil the fun.
Our Verdict: This show is like a little ray of sunshine. A toe-tapping, knee-slapping evening of pure joy.
I think we can all agree that Spring seems to be taking its time coming round this year. The auditorium at The Cockpit
, however, was like a little box of sunshine with clear, bright lighting and a beautiful blue sky warmly greeting the audience on their way in from the cold. The show itself feels like warm sunshine as well – a story about a family who will do anything for each other and who love to sing together. Although all of this may sound trite, this production manages to steer clear of over-sentimentality, mainly because it is so honest and innocent in its intentions.
The show opens in a back garden with young Spencer Parkin taking a little snooze on his sun lounger. He is joined by his best mate, Bonnie, a gorgeous northern lass who hungrily wolfs down a packet of crisps. We soon meet his entire family – his Mum, his brother Kit and their little Jack Russell. Spencer talks us through his family history with the help of a huge screen behind him, which serves as a kind of high-tech PowerPoint presentation. Joe Sproulle plays Spencer with so much charm that he owns the audience right from the start. He demonstrates impressive range and although this show is mainly full of laughter, Sproulle is equally capable of bringing a tear to your eye when you least expect it. His anecdotes are heart-meltingly gorgeous, especially the stories about his grandfather and his life growing up.
Spencer is joined by a terrific supporting cast. His mum is played by Alwyne Taylor who can really belt out a tune, and Kit is performed by an impossibly sweet Richard Maxted. There is a sparkling, natural rapport between Spencer and Kit, so much so that I looked at the names on the programme during the performance because I felt convinced the two must really be brothers. The beautiful Heather Dutton steals quite a few scenes as Bonnie and provides many of the biggest laughs of the evening. Her comedic skills are such that even when she’s not really doing anything, she can still make the audience howl with laughter.
The set design is completely terrific. The backdrop of gorgeous rolling blue sky converts into a screen where we can see everything from pictures of family holidays and childhood snapshots to backdrops of central London. The set and lighting also perfectly compliment a brilliant soundtrack which has everything from 1960s pop songs to comedy ditties. At several points, the whole audience were singing along, clapping and whooping to the music. It also helps that the cast can really sing.
I have a dislike for the term ‘coming-of-age’ because I feel it has become a cliché. However, this is a coming-of-age tale which is as good as you’ll get and well worth the ticket price. Although this show is mainly light-hearted, it has a number of very raw, heart-wrenching moments which are all brilliantly performed. There is plenty to recommend in this performance, especially considering that the recent weather has left us all in need of a good pick-me-up. This is a show about love, family, music and memories, and it is a terrific night out at the theatre.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!